Florida, Ari­zona were bet­ter, but Bi­den still needs more Latin vote

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - IN DEPTH - BY BIANCA PADRÓ OCA­SIO, DAVID SMI­LEY AND ALEX DAUGHERTY [email protected]­ami­her­ald.com dsmi­[email protected]­ami­her­ald.com adaugh­[email protected]­clatchydc.com

For all the talk of Joe Bi­den’s weak­ness with Lati­nos, the for­mer vice pres­i­dent deeply wounded his ri­val and tight­ened his grip on the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial pri­mary last week night by suc­cess­fully com­pet­ing with Bernie San­ders for His­panic vot­ers in Ari­zona and Florida — two cru­cial bat­tle­ground states.

Bi­den’s clean sweep in Tues­day’s pri­maries, which also in­cluded Illi­nois, re­vealed his gains among Lati­nos. And yet, as San­ders re­assesses his cam­paign and Bi­den be­gins to set his sights on beat­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in Novem­ber, the re­sults also un­der­scored the front-run­ner’s chal­lenges in a cru­cial gen­eral elec­tion de­mo­graphic.

Data emerg­ing from the Florida and Ari­zona pri­maries show that Bi­den trounced San­ders in Florida among His­panic vot­ers, romp­ing in precincts lo­cated in heav­ily Cuban, Venezue­lan, Nicaraguan and Puerto Ri­can com­mu­ni­ties. In Ari­zona, exit polling by CNN sug­gested that Bi­den split sup­port among Lati­nos with San­ders — an ac­com­plish­ment, con­sid­er­ing San­ders’ early dom­i­nance in western states.

“It was reaf­firm­ing to see him win all of the Latino en­claves in Florida,” said Mayra Macías, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for the Latino Victory Fund, a Su­per PAC that has en­dorsed Bi­den. “It’s a di­rect re­fut­ing of the nar­ra­tive that Bi­den doesn’t have Latino sup­port.”

In a memo Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Bi­den’s deputy cam­paign man­ager, Kate Bed­ing­field, wrote that the for­mer vice pres­i­dent had “ex­panded his broad coali­tion to in­clude new con­stituen­cies: Lati­nos, young vot­ers, and more pro­gres­sive parts of the Demo­cratic party.”

But Tues­day’s re­sults also re­flect Bi­den’s room for im­prove­ment go­ing for­ward.

While Bi­den did far bet­ter in Ari­zona and

Florida than he did last month in Ne­vada, where he took just 17% of the Latino vote in a cau­cus, a CNN exit poll showed him re­ceiv­ing 45% of the Latino vote in Ari­zona, mean­ing a ma­jor­ity of the de­mo­graphic voted for some­one else.

Exit polling was lim­ited Tues­day due to the spread of the novel coro­n­avirus, but a precinct­based anal­y­sis in Illi­nois by the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Los Angeles Pol­icy & Pol­i­tics Ini­tia­tive found that Bi­den took only about a quar­ter of the His­panic vote in Chicago. And in Florida, where non-Cuban His­panic vot­ers have be­come a cru­cial swing de­mo­graphic, 62% of Puerto Ri­cans and 57% of Cuban Amer­i­cans voted for Bi­den, ac­cord­ing to an

As­so­ci­ated Press poll con­ducted over the fi­nal week of the elec­tion, con­clud­ing as polls closed.

“The ques­tion for Bi­den is, does he want to com­pete for Florida’s 29 elec­toral votes? If he does, then that means he must en­gage in a com­pre­hen­sive cam­paign to max­i­mize his sup­port with the state’s His­panic elec­torate,” said Fer­nand Amandi, a Mi­ami-based poll­ster whose firm con­ducted His­panic re­search and me­dia for Barack Obama’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns. “We pretty much know how blacks are go­ing to vote. We know how whites are go­ing to vote. The group that has had some fluc­tu­a­tion from cy­cle to cy­cle is the His­panic elec­torate.”

Head-to-head gen­eral elec­tion polling be­tween Bi­den and Trump by Univi­sion Noti­cias/Latino De­ci­sions has shown the for­mer vice pres­i­dent trail­ing Trump in Florida. A Tele­mu­ndo/Ma­sonDixon poll shows Bi­den lead­ing Trump in Ari­zona and hold­ing a whop­ping 52-point ad­van­tage over the pres­i­dent among Lati­nos. In Florida, Ma­son-Dixon found that Bi­den’s ad­van­tage over Trump among His­panic vot­ers is smaller — 20 points — and be­low the 27-point mark Hil­lary

Clin­ton hit in 2016 when she crushed Trump with His­panic vot­ers but still lost the state by more than 100,000 votes.

And ac­cord­ing to precinct-level anal­y­sis of the Demo­cratic pri­mary in Florida from UCLA, Bi­den dom­i­nated in heav­ily Cuban dis­tricts in Lit­tle Ha­vana and Hialeah but still fell short of a ma­jor­ity. In Do­ral, one of the largest Venezue­lan ex­ile com­mu­ni­ties in the U.S., Bi­den won 49% of the vote. He won 54% of the vote in Or­lando and 49% in Osce­ola County, both home to large Boricua com­mu­ni­ties.

After the 2018 midterm elec­tions, in which Florida Democrats lost races for Se­nate and gover­nor by ra­zor-thin mar­gins, the party and its can­di­dates ac­knowl­edged they fell short with His­panic vot­ers. In a gen­eral elec­tion matchup, a re­cent Tele­mu­ndo/Ma­son-Dixon poll found Bi­den win­ning 80% of the Puerto Ri­can vote against Trump in Florida, but only 27% of the Cuban-Amer­i­can vote.

“Bi­den has to do well with His­panic in­de­pen­dents,” Amandi said. “He has to max­i­mize his sup­port with His­panic Democrats. He has to be able to even carve out a sig­nif­i­cant slice of His­panic reg­is­tered Repub­li­cans.”

Be­yond par­ti­san pol­i­tics, Bi­den also faces the chal­lenge of speak­ing to a di­verse com­mu­nity with needs that go far deeper and wider than Trump’s hard-line im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

In Ari­zona, mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions of cit­i­zen­ship have cre­ated view­points that dif­fer from com­mu­ni­ties that only re­cently im­mi­grated to the U.S., said Matt Bar­reto, co-founder of Latino De­ci­sions.

“Ari­zona is a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent in that you do need to un­der­stand how to com­mu­ni­cate and mes­sage to some of those Latino com­mu­ni­ties who don’t have im­mi­grant par­ents or even im­mi­grant grand­par­ents,” Bar­reto said. “They say, ‘Yes, I’m Mex­i­can Amer­i­can, but my fam­ily’s been here in Ari­zona for four gen­er­a­tions.’ And they want to be treated like Mex­i­can Amer­i­cans, but per­haps maybe not like im­mi­grants.”

And in Florida, di­verse com­mu­ni­ties with ties to Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico each have dif­fer­ing is­sues.

For­mer Mi­ami Mayor Manny Diaz, the for­mer na­tional po­lit­i­cal co-chair­man of Michael Bloomberg’s cam­paign, said one of the bil­lion­aire’s ad­van­tages be­fore he dropped out early this month was that his un­lim­ited cam­paign ac­count al­lowed him to tailor ads and cam­paigns to dif­fer­ent seg­ments of the Latino com­mu­nity. Diaz said 27% of early votes in heav­ily His­panic Mi­ami-Dade County were go­ing Bloomberg’s way be­fore he dropped out.

“I think in terms of the over­all mes­sag­ing, we ac­tu­ally devoted a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time, our pol­icy team in par­tic­u­lar, to not talk­ing about the tra­di­tional ‘im­mi­gra­tion is the only thing Lati­nos care about’ line which makes [Latino vot­ers] sick and dizzy,” Diaz said. “There needs to be more of a con­nec­tion with the His­panic com­mu­nity. ... You’ve got to be able to in­vest the re­sources and get peo­ple on the ground and you’ve got to have sur­ro­gates and peo­ple who are out there speak­ing on your be­half to get the mes­sage out.”

Bi­den’s cam­paign, which was waf­fling and broke un­til he be­gan to per­form bet­ter in pri­maries in late Fe­bru­ary, has be­gun to build out its His­panic out­reach arm. Ahead of the Florida pri­mary, be­fore the spread of the coro­n­avirus de­stroyed all sem­blance of nor­mal cam­paign­ing, Bi­den had brought on sur­ro­gates from dif­fer­ent back­grounds and was work­ing to cre­ate His­panic coali­tions, such as Colom­bianos por Bi­den. Early this month, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry trav­eled to Do­ral to talk about Bi­den’s work in Latin Amer­ica.

“Florida al­ways is — and will be again in this pres­i­den­tial cy­cle — de­pen­dent on the voice of Lati­nos to help de­ter­mine who the next pres­i­dent of the United States is,” said Henry Muñoz, a Texan who sits as na­tional co-chair­man of the To­dos con Bi­den His­panic out­reach cam­paign.

Car­los Odio, a for­mer White House aide un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Obama and the co-founder of the Latino-fo­cused re­search firm EquisLabs, said “it’s a promis­ing sign” that Bi­den’s cam­paign has shown in­ter­est in talk­ing to dif­fer­ent seg­ments of the His­panic com­mu­nity.

And while he said Bi­den faces a new hur­dle as cam­paign­ing shifts to on­line-only amid the spread of the coro­n­avirus, Odio said Lati­nos dis­pro­por­tion­ately rely on so­cial plat­forms like What­sApp to share and con­sume in­for­ma­tion, so they shouldn’t be too hard to reach.

“The good news is Lati­nos are over-rep­re­sented on all dig­i­tal and tech plat­forms. Lati­nos are way more dig­i­tal than any­body else as a per­cent­age, so it comes nat­u­rally,” Odio said. “I wouldn’t be sur­prised to see more hap­pen in What­sApp than it’s happened in the past.”


A Mari­achi band waits to per­form be­fore a cam­paign event with for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent and Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Joe Bi­den in Las Ve­gas.


Joe Bi­den ar­rives at a cam­paign rally in Hous­ton on March 2.

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